COVID-19 creates a rare opportunity for students to engage directly with Holocaust survivors

September 22, 2020 by Margot Gorski
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While remote learning has been challenging for many, for the Jewish Holocaust Centre (JHC) in Melbourne it has opened up an opportunity for Holocaust survivors living in Melbourne to share their stories with students across Australia and for students and teachers around the country to use the Centre’s unique resources.

Holocaust survivor, Paul Grinwald recently shared his story with a group of students in the Northern Territory

The JHC educates 23,000 students each year. With lockdown in March and elderly survivors remaining in their homes, it faced unprecedented challenges. The response was to build a suite of virtual learning resources and customised virtual workshops and create online learning opportunities for all Australian students, not just those in Victoria.

JHC Education Engagement Manager, Jennifer Levitt Maxwell says, “In Australia, we have Holocaust survivors who are eyewitnesses to history and who engage with students and deeply enhance their learning experience. Hearing real stories makes this history far more memorable for students. This precious opportunity is available now, but the survivors are ageing and it won’t be with us forever.

“The highlight of our customised virtual workshop is meeting a survivor as it allows students to see that the Holocaust happened to ordinary people, who were of a similar age to themselves. It allows them to humanise the facts and statistics. Initially, COVID-19 put a stop to this, but we have now managed to help a number of our survivors, with the aid of technology to engage with students.”

The JHC’s comprehensive suite of online teaching and engagement resources includes a virtual tour of the museum, an “Ask a Survivor” program and downloadable resources for teachers and students. The focus is on Melbourne-based survivors and the museum is home to more than 1,300 local survivor testimonies and 20,000 artefacts they brought with them to Australia. Students have access to an experience that may not be available to them in their own locality.

The JHC also works directly with teachers to customise learning programs for their students. Teachers can find out more about virtual workshops here and virtual learning programs here, or by contacting the JHC education team at [email protected]

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